Usurbil, Parroquia del Salvador
In 1905 Albert Baron de l’Espée commissioned a new organ for his famous castle in Ilbarritz near Bayonne from Charles Mutin.
This instrument was delivered in 1907 and had 63 stops on 3 manuals (68 keys) and pedal (35 keys).
It revealed numerous special characteristics: in addition to the normal organ stops, it possessed three celestas, a harpsichord and a grand piano. All these instruments could be played from the 1st manual, whereby there was the possibility of quickly switching off all the pulled normal organ stops when the Baron intended to play one of these additional stops. Moreover, 26 special-effects instruments could be controlled from a small auxiliary manual consisting of 26 keys: finger cymbals, tympani, crash cymbals, triangles, gongs, castanets, all provided with a mechanism which allowed them to be played at cadences. In addition to the usual aids to execution, the organ possessed five free mechanical combinations for all stops. As for the genuine organ stops, the Baron’s especial desire was to be able to imitate Siegfried’s horn as perfectly as possible. We also find stops such as English horn, musette, violins and string stops in all registers so as to sensitively interpret the sound of a string quartet. The console was placed about 6 metres in front of the organ and turned towards it.
The Baron sold his estate in Ilbarritz in 1911.
Pierre-Barthelémy Gheusi, an author of diverse dramas and Director of the Opéra Comique, bought the palace in Ilbarritz from the Baron in 1911. From April 1912 onwards, he opened up the legendary estate to the public and organised a series of concerts in the organ hall. The most important musicians and organists of the epoch gained complete control over the events at Ilbarritz Palace and were toured through the estate by Gheusi. They appreciated the special characteristics of the instrument and the excellent acoustics of the music hall. The outbreak of World War I thwarted the plans of Pierre-Barthelémy Gheusi. The palace was converted into a military hospital for wounded soldiers from the front and gradually became run-down.
In 1920 Gheusi arrived at the decision to part with the organ, which had begun to show signs of neglect. A certain Doctor Bastide, a music-lover resident in Biarritz, now acquired the organ. He kept only 14 stops for himself. Doctor Bastide also kept the wind chest of the récit expressif together with swell, keyboard, trémolo and depot bellows for himself. With the exception of these components, the rest of the organ including the casing was sold to Usurbil for 27,000 pesetas: the great with wind chest, Barker machine and tracture, the positive, also with wind chest, Barker machine and tracture as well as swell, the complete console with the wood carvings surrounding it in Ilbarritz and its construction in Usurbil was supervised by the organ builder Fernand Prince. The initial view of the organ, as seen today on the balcony of San Salvador Church in Usurbil, is almost identical to that at Ilbarritz Palace. Only the console has been turned round and the gap formed by the missing manual covered by wood panelling.
Doctor Bastide constructed a small but interesting concert organ in a hall of his villa in Biarritz. In 1956 the Bastide family decided to part from the organ and sold the instrument to the Benedictine nuns of the Convent Sainte-Scholastique in Urt, near Bayonne. After the Convent was disbanded, individual stops and pipes were sold to Pau, where they are said to have been used in the construction of a small choir organ.